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10 Minute Guide to London and England
The Best Guide to London for the Busy Traveller
Richard Tara & Ricardo Barberini

Usually, when American friends travel to Europe, they ask Ricardo or Richard for tips.  Questions such as what to do, where to go, what to see, what to eat and how to tip?  We decided to put our heads together and come up with a short definitive guide to England and London for the tourists.  We may even follow this up with other guides.  In preparing this material, we wanted to focus on people who do not have the patience or time to read a whole book on England just to find out how to get to the Tower of London.  Those publications are interested in selling books so they stretch the material to cover a couple of hundred pages.  Out guide is aimed for people with short attention spans.  Print it and take it with you or save the link on your IPhone.  We encourage you to copy, email and distribute this booklet freely to all friends and potential travellers.  We would be grateful, if you could give credit to the authors and the website for making this concise information available freely.

Prices vary depending on the hotel and the location.  A reasonable hotel room in a nice neighborhood such as Kensington would start at around 200 dollars per night.
There are also some nice Bed and Breakfasts scattered around the city.  If you plan to stay more than a few days, we would recommend renting a flat.  For around $1500 a week, you could get a nice one bedroom flat with all the amenities. There are too many hotels and flats available to list them here.  You best bet is to check Google. Or send us an email for recommendations. If you plan to take your laptop with you, as most people do, then make sure that the flat has Internet service and ask if it is included in the price. Finally, if you want to see more than the standard 4 channels, ask if they have digital TV and satellite or cable.

The Airport
London Airport has the most stupidly designed terminal system.  First, you get off the plane and walk about half a mile, then there is a people mover, which does not work, then there is another half a mile of walk.  Then you go up some stairs and walk some more. It is not over yet! Then you go down some stairs and walk to the Immigration.  Again, you go down some stairs and walk some more to get to the arrival hall. Whoever designed those terminals is an idiot. Therefore, be prepared for a long walk.

Transport to and from the Airport.
You can actually catch the Underground at 3 of London Heathrow terminals. You can even get the express train to Paddington.  Now, remember that the Trans Atlantic flights are long and most people will get a jet lag which puts them in slightly dazed state.  In fact, even flight attendants get jet lag.  So, what happens when you get the tube or the Express Train to London and arrive at your destination? Chances are that your hotel or your flat is not next to the Underground station. Therefore, you will have to get a taxi or cart your luggage to your hotel.  It is even worse if you get the Express to Paddington.  Paddington Station is not in a salubrious part of town and it is best to get a taxi from Paddington to your hotel, even if your hotel is only a few blocks away.  Our advice is this; if there is more than one of you in the party; take a taxi at the airport. It is more convenient and it costs about the same as the alternatives.  Buses and Underground are very expensive.  In addition, you have to have the correct change or line up.  Your best bet is to buy an Oyster card on your first day in London.  They cost only 3 pounds and you can refill them as you go along and they never expire.  The Oyster card is valid on all Underground and London buses.  It is also valid for travel on British trains within about a 50 mile radius of central London.  It also works out much cheaper than buying individual tickets.  You can buy and also refill Oyster cards at London’s Underground stations.  You should get an initial refill of 20 pounds to cover your first few days.

During a recent visit, Ricardo was somewhat surprised that the standard of service had improved.  You still have to bag your groceries and pay for wine carriers.  But, the staffs at supermarkets are much friendlier.  The best supermarket to shop at is Waitrose. Waitrose is UK’s premier supermarket with good prices and very helpful staff, definitely better than Safeway’s in US.  However, the biggest store, Tesco and others like ASDA are not known for good service.

In the United States, there is usually no service charge added unless there are 6 or more in the party.  The European practice is to charge a service fee of between 12 to 15 percent on top of your actual bill.  Most Americans are confused and the European waiters take advantage of this ignorance by telling the tourists that the service charge is actually a tax.  You are not required to leave a tip unless the service is exceptionally good and even then you should leave a maximum of five percent of your total bill.  The waiters respect assertive customers more than the namby-pamby ones who try to buy their respects by giving them large tips.  As for taxi drivers; give them about ten percent of the total fare.  The minimum should be one pound.

Many Americans wonder about driving in England.  As you probably know the English drive on the wrong side of the road to start with.  However, most of us could handle that.   The problem is that English roads are remnants of Roman times and as such they are very narrow and twisted.  But, the most dangerous thing about driving in England is the English drivers.  They probably qualify as some of worst drivers in the world.  English drivers are reckless and extremely aggressive.  Those nice courteous people, change personality once the get behind the wheel of a car and the last thing they care about are the pedestrians. 
In California, if a pedestrian steps on the street, he or she can be relatively certain that the incoming cars will stop.   Even in Italy, if you cross a street or square in Rome, the Italian drivers go around you.  You can actually close your eyes (not recommended) and cross a busy piazza, knowing the cars will avoid you. 
By contrast, the London drivers aim for you.  A “Pedestrian Crossing” does not mean a thing to those brutes.  You have to be careful to get out of the way and if you do not move quick enough, they will curse you with foul language.  Even the cyclists are insolent and inconsiderate. We thought San Francisco cyclists were offensive, but the English take the cake. Most Londoners are used to dodging the cars and bicycles.    As for driving, our first advice is don’t.  But, if you have to, get a powerful car with automatic transmission to dodge other cars and remember they are riding on the wrong side of the road.  Don’t drive a stick shift or you will be sorry. Also, buy the full insurance coverage that the rental company sells, even if it sounds outrageously high. If you charge your rental to your credit card, remember that most credit card companies have a ceiling of what they will cover in case of accidents.  Thing to remember:  The English drivers are maniacs, if you hesitate for a second, they will crash into you and the car repair costs are astronomically high.

The banking system is lousy.  You are treated like inmates when you enter a bank to deposit or withdraw money.  Hats off to Wells Fargo for its wonderful service oriented approach.

One could hardly find an authentic English restaurant anymore.  Most English prefer foreign foods to their trusty old Steak and Kidney pie or Liver, Bacon and Cabbage.  The restaurant scene is dominated by a combination of exotic, Japanese, Thai, Moroccan and Indian sprinkled with the ever-present Italian restaurants.  Most restaurants are owned and /or managed by foreigners.  Speaking of which, the best Fish and Chips shop we saw recently, was owned by an Arabic family and the cook was from India.  The most reasonable food is still the Indian.  The American chains, McDonalds and Burger King provide value for money but the food quality and service is not that good. Most supermarkets have selections of ready made food.  Some, like Waitrose have take-outs.  Now, the good news.  San Francisco is a beautiful town but it is still provincial in its attitude. Regardless of who the chef is or how expensive the restaurant, most restaurants close by 9.  If you are unlucky enough to get to a restaurant in San Francisco, after 8, you are met with pouting waiters who were hoping to get off by 9 and you will be rushed through your meal.  By contrast, most London restaurants are open until at least midnight and many are open until 1 AM. 

That is a major concern of every tourist in any country.  Generally speaking London is a very safe town.  We have been out, walking alone or with friends, after midnight without worrying about muggers and pan handlers. Neither Richard nor Ricardo would dare to walk in most major US cities after 10 PM. 

Local Television
The English are now blessed!  Like the USA, they have a couple of hundred channels to choose from and like the US, most of them are useless.  However, if you like repeats of quality TV mysteries you could not go wrong with ITV3 which starts its broadcast of Miss Marples, Poirot, Numbers and other mixture of good fair at about 7 PM and goes on until well after midnight.  Also, there is an opportunity to see some TV mystery dramas that have never been aired in the US.  For more serious TV try BBC 1 or BBC2.  The news coverage is the best in the world and even the late Ted Kennedy once said that he only listened to BBC for impartial coverage.  If you are interested in racy soft porn, then try the Virgin1 channel. 

London is famed for its West End Theatres some dating back several centuries.  The theatres cater for all tastes from Shakespeare to Dramas, to Musicals, Mysteries and Comedies. You must see at least one show while you are in London.  The best place to book them is in the basement of Harrods department store.
Make sure you see the Mousetrap at St. Martin’s Theatre.  It has the distinction of being the longest running play in modern history.  St. Martin’s is a small (550 seats) intimate theatre. Buy a glass of wine (unlike USA, they allow drinking in the theatres), sit back and enjoy the play.
The theatre is very close to Charing Cross Station or a short walk from Piccadilly Circus.
Also visit the Windmill Theatre which though it is not a theatre anymore, has the distinction of being the only theatre in London that did not close during the German Blitz in World War II.  The show went on as the bombs kept falling around them.  The Windmill is just north of Piccadilly Circus, off Shaftsbury Avenue.

Football (Soccer to Americans)         
Football has always been an integral fabric of the English. In fact, it dates back to the 12th century.  It is an easy game to learn and play.  Everyone can become a football player.  The other major sport being Cricket, which is similar to Baseball but is played at an excruciatingly low speed.  It is popular in the sense that some people have a rudimentary understanding of it.  But, when it comes to football, every English man and most English women have favorites.  There are four major football divisions (leagues) in the country plus countless other local and regional ones. The teams are promoted and demoted every year according to a complex formula based on based on the number of goals scored and lost and the frequency of losses in home games versus frequency of wins in away games. Some teams, such as Everton, have almost always have been in the first (Premier) division. But, many teams such as Fulham and Chelsea have moved up and down the division ladder throughout the years. 
Every June England is the host to Wimbledon. Wimbledon is a town within the greater London area. Wimbledon is probably the most prestigious tennis event. Of all the spectator sports, tennis is the easiest to understand and follow.  You do not need any mental acuity to follow the simple flight of the ball from one side of the court to the other.  The rich and beautiful people go to Wimbledon to be seen and admired by the popular rag sheets. English people just like others; love to read about people who are better off and/or more attractive than their next-door neighbor. The rest of the year, nobody cares about tennis. After all, professional tennis is an exclusive club for a privileged and/or lucky few -less than a hundred people- who travel between tournaments to play, enjoy themselves and make some money. 
Horse Racing and Dog Racing
Here is the dichotomy.   There are only a few who can afford to indulge in riding horses or sponsoring jockeys to compete for them. However, there are two other groups.  The people who dress up to the nines to be seen and photographed by the popular press. If lucky, they may even get a chance to glance at the octogenarian Queen Elizabeth II and tell their friend, relatives and acquaintances about their good fortune of seeing a Royal.
If Horse Racing is the sport of the nobles, Greyhound Racing is the sport of the working man. It is a very popular and yet underreported and exclusively working class form of entertainment.  You can always put a few pounds on a dog and hope for the best. There are many dog racing tracks around the City and that is where you will find the true spirit of England i.e., the English working class man.

Other sports
Golf supposedly originated in Scotland.  We know that people who play golf enjoy it tremendously.  But, what we do not understand where is the joy in watching someone lining up a shot and shooting it into the air.  

English Girls
English girls are about the prettiest and handsomest in Europe.  They are a bit reserved to start with, but they will talk to you and you may even get a date if you are persistent and have an American accent.   There are many places to meet them.  If you are young, I would start at a department store such as Harrods.  Then there are bars, coffee shops, casinos, and discos.  We would avoid the casinos because the girls who frequent those places expect you to be a high roller.  Another question has always been; are the English girls easy?   We would say they are looser than Italian or Greek girls but not as easy as the Scandinavians and Germans; probably on a par with the girls in the West Coast.  Because of its climate, English girls have such exquisite skins.  But, the fair skin lasts only while they live in England.  Some English women migrate to hot climates and sit in the sun to compensate for the sometimes dreary climate back home. The result is that the sun sucks out the life out of their once tender skins and their faces become leathery and wrinkled. What evolution took thousands of years to perfect is undone in six months under the intense sun of California or Arizona.  One added bonus, English girls, have nice legs and pretty ankles and feet! That is why most show girls in France –Casino de Paris, Follies Berger etc- used to be English.  But, now, with the opening of Eastern Europe, the show girls are probably mostly from Croatia and/or Poland.   Please be careful to avoid clip joints and unknown escort agencies. 

Snacks and Things
If you are as addicted to chips as Richard is then you will be disappointed with the quality of English chips, they call them Crisps over there.  Many of them have the same brand name as American chips such as Kettle and Lays but they do not taste as good. Maybe we are used to more salty chips than they are. 
Also, sweets are less sweet in England than in US.  I think that has to do with the sugar content and how it is controlled.

The real English bread is superior to the American bread.  They do not find it necessary to add sugar or even worse, High Fructose Corn Syrup to their dough.  As in US, there is a great variety of bread available in a supermarket or even a small store.  Our advice is, if you like bread, buy Hovis or similar brand of bread.

People in general
The English are generally very nice.  However, they are reserved.  Most Americans outside big cities are used to smiling and saying Hi to people, they meet in the street while walking. By contrast, the English avoid eye contact and look away from you if you come across them while walking or hiking. It is up to you to break the ice and take the first step. Once you get to know them, you will find that they are genuinely nice people. Again, take the first step and talk to them.

Wine and Beer
Until the seventies, the English hardly drank wine and if they did, it was mostly Claret, which is actually a Bordeaux.  The commoners drank Ale and the rich and noble drank Sherry and Port.  Scotch Whiskey was reserved for the rich people.   Things have changed so much that you can now get a good variety of wine, including great California wines in supermarkets.  The European wines, in general, are cheaper in England than in the USA.  However, California wines, not surprisingly, are dearer.  For red, we recommend French and for white Italian.  Very good prices and you cannot go wrong.
For beer, you have many choices including even Bud.  Amstel Beer or Stella are very nice beers and are stronger than the US variety.  If you want the real English beer, try a pub and ask for either “Bitter, Guinness, or Pale Ale” You will get used to it after two pints!
Then there is the real English Cider with high alcohol content.  Not every pub sells the genuine West England Cider but if you find it ask for a pint of half-and-half, which is a mixture or sweet and sour cider.  But, be very careful, after two pints of those you may find yourself on the floor.

One major difference between the British and the American newspapers is that English papers, by and large, are national and except the Guardian are published in London.  As for quality, they could be broken down into two categories, rag sheets and quality papers. It is very much like the New York City where you have trashy papers like the Post and quality papers like New York Times. If you want quality, choose the Guardian or the Telegraph.  Those papers are on par with New York Times and Washington Post. Otherwise, select the Daily Mirror, the Express or the Daily Mail. The only afternoon paper left “Evening Standard” is now free and you can pick it up at most Underground stations.

Public Toilets
London does not have many public toilets.  There are some pay toilets where you will have to pay at the turnstile to get inside and there is a trick to bypass the turnstiles if you do not have the right money.  The public establishments such as bars and restaurants are very mean with their facilities and do not allow non-customers to use them.  Unlike US, most toilets do not provide you with the paper seat covers.  As a frugal nation, the only way to dry your hands is by using the hot air blowers, no paper towels of any kind even in the chic places.  We call that cheap and unhealthy.  They maybe saving some trees, but the warm air circulating inside the humid toilet area when you dry your hands is the perfect incubator for germs.

One final note, some public toilets like the on the sunken pedestrian concourse which connects Marble Arch, Speaker’s Corner, Park Lane, Oxford Street, Bayswater Road and Edgware Road used to be a hangout for some undesirable characters.  It may have changed since last year.

English Pubs
An English Pub is nothing like a bar.  The Pub is an English tradition that goes back centuries.  Until recently, even the smallest hamlets and villages used to have one or two pubs.  Then the big brewers stepped in and started buying up the Mum and Pop pubs.  There are two types of pubs in England.  The brewery owned pubs which will only serve the beer produced by the company and the Free Pubs which can sell any kind of beer.
The pubs are visited by many locals and people who work in the vicinity during lunch time.  People have a drink or two and some lunch.  The real clients are the locals who start coming in after 6 and many of them stay until the closing time which used to be 11 PM for many years but has now been left to the operator’s discretion.   That is the best time to visit a pub and soak in the real English Pub Atmosphere!
As for food, stick to the English style food.  They are not as exotic as the Continental type food but they are wholesome and each item has a history behind it.  Do try the Ploughman’s Lunch, Steak and Kidney Pie, Liver and Bacon, Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding with Roast Potatoes and Roast Lamb.   You may get lucky and get Roast Pork with thick crackling.  Top that off by an English Pudding or Pie and custard.  There is nothing like an English Jam Tart and hot custard.


Photos of Places of Interest

Tower of London

Marble Arch


Hampton Court Palace, The Fountain Court

Harrods of London

Memorial to Princes Diana and Dodi at Harrods

Fortnum and Mason

Burlington Arcade on Piccadilly Street

Kew Gardens

Giant Glasshouse at Wisley Gardens
Photo by: Richard Tara

Picturesque Cotswolds

Greenwich Observatory

A classy Pub near Knightsbridge, London
Photo by: Richard Tara

Wisley Gardens
Photo by: Richard Tara

Hidden Garden, Kensington Palace
Photo by: Richard Tara

Rose Garden at Warwick Castle
Photo by: Richard Tara

Tower Bridge, London
Photo by: Richard Tara

An English Beauty in a English Pub
Photo by Richard Tara

Diana Memorial
Photo by Richard Tara

Inside Harrods
Photo by Richard Tara

Respect for the Eldery sign on country lane
Photo by Richard Tara

Typical English Pub Scene
Photo by: Richard Tara

Happy Pub patron
Photo by: Richard Tara

There are many places that one should visit while in England.  We list them in order of importance:

1. The London Bus Tour. There are several companies operating these tours. They start from Marble Arch and take a swing through Mayfair, the West End and the old City of London. The guides are usually very talkative and will point all items of interest. You can always ask questions as well. The buses are double-decker and we recommend that you sit on the top deck for a better view and to keep cool. It can get muggy on the lower deck. Even if you have lived in London all your life, you will learn many new things about this great city. You can board the bus at several locations but we recommend starting your journey at Marble Arch, other wise if you board the bus at say Victoria Station, you will end up in Marble Arch and have to get out and get in line for another bus to see the parts before Victoria.

2. The Tower of London and the Crown Jewels. Another must see. Allow yourself at least 3 hours for this outing. The Yeomen give free guided tours. You should tip them a pound or two at the end of the tour. Then go back and rediscover the tower. You can get there by Underground and it is also a drop off point for all the bus tours

3. Hyde Park Corner and Kensington Gardens. While you are at Marble Arch, take a walking tour of these magnificent parks. Kensington Palace is kitty-corner at the opposite end of the park to Marble Arch. It will take you about twenty minutes to make it there. This used to be the residence of English kings and queens, until Queen Victoria moved to the Buckingham Palace.

4. London Eye. This huge wheel in the sky will give you a magnificent view of London. Use the Internet to book first before going on your trip.

5. The British Museum. Along with Louvre, in Paris and the Vatican Museum is one of the grandest of Museums in the World to visit. Allow at least half a day for walking around and enjoying the ancient world. Especially interesting is the Egyptian section.

6. The Trio in South Kensington. Just north of the Underground station in South Kensington are three Museums next to each other. The Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum of Natural History. Admission is currently free. You can spend at least 4 hours in each museum just to soak up the genre. Don’t miss them. They are very centrally located. By the way, these three museums are just a ten-minute walk from the Kensington Palace and Hyde Park. Take the Underground to South Kensington Station. 

7. Harrods. To visit Harrods is like going to a surrealistic world. It is too bright and clinical and there are so many security guards around. But, there is something about Harrods that brings you back year after year. The staff that used to be mostly British is now mostly foreign. The majority are young attractive Continental girls from Poland, Italy, France and Slovenia etc. They are extremely pleasant. The old British staff was rather snotty nosed and used to talk down to you as if you did not know what you were asking for. There are still some leftover snobs in the meat departments who think they know an Italian Salame better than either Richard or Ricardo do. Take the Underground to Knightsbridge and it will drop you at Harrods’ doorstep.

8. Afternoon Tea at Fortnum and Mason. Fortnum and Mason is an old department store, specializing in food. Amazing types of food from all over the world. The store is located on Piccadilly Street, about a mile east of Harrods. You could walk or take a bus. We recommend going there in the afternoon. Their Afternoon Tea is world-renowned. Take the elevator to the top floor and it usually starts after 4 PM. By the way, for those of you interested in trivia, Fortnum’s invented Scotch Eggs and were the first ever to market baked bins in cans. Take the Underground to Piccadilly Circus and walk east on Piccadilly Street for a couple of hundred yards. It is on the south side of the street. You won’t miss it.

9. Canterbury. This is a day tour to the town of Canterbury and the cathedral there. These guided tours usually start around eight in the morning and last until 6 pm. They all start from the Victoria Bus Terminal. Some tours include Afternoon Tea as well. In any case, they will stop at a pub for lunch. The tour guides are usually chosen for their knowledge of history and trivia and will keep you entertained throughout. Evans Tours and the Big Bus Company are two of the major tour operators. You could book all these tours online before leaving home.

10. Oxford is a must see for the American tourists. We have all seen Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis in the mystery dramas on the public television. Downtown Oxford is completely traffic free, so pedestrians are free to roam about as they want to. Oxford is an easy trip from London. If you decide to go by yourself instead of taking the tour, catch the train from Charing Cross. The city is just a short walk away.

11. Cotswolds and Warwick Castle. This is a most delightful tour. The bus takes you through North London to the picturesque Cotswolds, which a green valley with charming villages and cottage homes. If you go there on a summer day, you may decide to immigrate to England and live the rest of your life in one of those delightful homes. Some tours take you further to the Warwick castle, which is now in private corporate hands. Warwick Castle is huge and Medieval. Use your imagination and pretend you are a Knight of the grand order. We recommend that you do not visit the torture chamber at Warwick. It will spoil your trip.

12. Portobello Road Market. This is an open air market a few minutes walk north of the Notting Hill Gate Underground station. Very easy to get to. The market covers several blocks and it is fun to walk around and look at antiques, reproductions, old books and jewelry. There are no bargains to be found in the Portobello Road market anymore; in fact most of the stuff is overpriced. But, it is fun to walk there. The Portobello Road Fruit and Vegetable market is at the end of the row, but not many tourists make it that far. If you make it there, you will be one of the few!

13. The West End. The so called West End starts from Piccadilly Circus where the statue of Eros is located and radiates north, west and east.

1. There is not much to south of Piccadilly Circus, for the tourists that is. To the south west are the Trafalgar Square and the National Art Gallery. They are about five minutes’ walk away.

2. If you go east you will come across Leicester Square and its cinemas and continuing a bit further will take you to the Charing Cross train and Underground station.

3. Slightly to the northwest is the magnificent Regent Street and its shops. Regent Street leads to Oxford Circus and Oxford Street.

4. To the northeast are Shaftsbury Avenue, Soho and the new China Town. It also leads to Drury Lane and Covent Garden with its hundreds of restaurants and pubs. Many theatres are located in that direction. Soho used to be a haven for prostitutes, strip clubs and clip joints. It also had some of the least expensive restaurants in town. That has all changed now. 

5. To the east of Eros statue is Piccadilly Street, where Fortnum and Mason is located. Also to the east, almost opposite Fortnum’s is the world famous Burlington Arcade and Bond Street. Another place worth visiting is the Berry Bros and Rudd Wine Merchants at 3 St. James’s Street, just off Piccadilly. Berry Bros have been in wine business in the same location for over 300 years. The members of the two families still run the business. Are they lucky or what?

You will need to devote, at least two whole days and a two evening to enjoy the West End. In reality, to take it all in and enjoy it will require much longer time.Oxford Street. A visit to London is not complete without sampling the shops on

14. Oxford Street. People come from all over the world to shop there. Depending on your budget, you can find something to take back with you. Oxford Street starts at Marble Arch and ends at Tottenham Court Road. You can start at either direction and it will take you at least half an hour just to walk to the other end since the street is mostly crowded during the day. If you are doing any shopping, then allocate one whole day. Take the Underground station to Marble Arch, if you are starting at the western part of Oxford Street or to Tottenham Court station, if you are starting your tour from the east end of Oxford Street.

15. The London Planetarium and Madam Tussauds wax museum. The planetarium is fun to sit in and relax while watching the skies. You really feel that you are part of the Universe. Almost every city has a Wax Museum; even Las Vegas has one located in the Venetian Hotel. However, this is the original McCoy. This one boasts some original paraphernalia dating back to Jack the Ripper’s time. Take the train to Baker Street Station.

16. Boat Trip to Greenwich observatory. Wonderful boat trip during which you will also see the famous Greenwich clocks. All clocks in the world are based on Greenwich Time.

17. Hampton Court Palace. The original residence of the Tudor Kings. Henry VIII lived here so did Queen Elizabeth I. It is now a fabulous place with extensive gardens. Note the original fireplace in the main hall. The fireplace is located in the middle of the hall. In Tudor times, the English had not yet discovered the chimney so there used to be a big hole in the roof of the hall to let the smoke out in Winter.

18. Denbie’s Vineyard. Denbie is considered the biggest vineyard in England. It soil is similar to the Champagne district in France. As a result it produces superb wine. This vineyard has train tours which take you to the top of the hill and also tours that take you underground where the wine is actually made and stored. Denbie is near Dorking south of London and is well worth a visit. You can take the train from Victoria to Dorking and then get a taxi. 

19. Kew Gardens. Also known as the Royal Botanic Gardens dates back 250 years. It houses the world’s largest collection of living plants from around the world, each maintained in its ideal living condition. While it is very easy to get to the Kew Gardens, not many tourists take the opportunity of visiting this wondrous park, but it has millions of visitors annually, mostly from the British Isles. You can get there easily via District Line.

20. Wisley Gardens. Very few tourists know of the existence of this beautiful garden near London. During the weekend it is packed by Londoners and people who live near the coast. The gardens are magnificently set and include a gigantic glasshouse which was modernized recently. Take the train from Waterloo Station to Woking and get a taxi to Wisley.


Politics and Special Relations with US

  1. The British have three major political parties. The Conservatives are on the right, the Labour party on the left and the Liberal-Democrats in the middle.  Many Americans assume, wrongly, that the Conservatives are similar to the Republicans and the Labour akin to the Democrats with the Liberal-Democrats somewhere in-between.  This is actually incorrect. The British are, as a whole, more progressively minded than the Americans. The Conservatives are more like the US Democrats. The Labour party and the Liberal-Democrats would be considered socialists in the US. The US Republican party and its agenda would be considered too far right by most people in Europe and would only be espoused by fringe elements of the society.
  2.  However, successive British governments, for over a hundred years, have relied on America as an anchor against European excesses.  That special relationship is what saved England and Europe during two world wars. There is also the symbiotic similarity of the culture, the language and the common law between the two nations. 
  3. Finally, the British are practical. They are not too stupidly proud like the French. And, unlike the French, they remember who helped them get rid of the threat of Hitler.  As a result, even a socialist prime minister (Tony Blair) found it advisable to support George Bush’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.  There was little choice, so they begrudgingly follow where America lead

The Royal Family and a short history of how they became so “Royal”

The Royal Family is a source of constant entertainment for the British.  The tabloids are always full of pictures or the Royals and their antics.  People, as a whole, are ambivalent about the Old Queen and many think that the Duke is an imbecile.  However, the majority like Prince Harry, mostly because of his girl friend and fiancée to be Kate. 
The kings and queens of England have always claimed “Blood Royal” as their right of reigning. They trace themselves back to 1066 when William the Bastard also known as the Conqueror killed Harold the last king of Saxon England and declared himself the king. Harold was actually a Dane and William was the illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy and a washerwoman. We do not see any royalty there.
In fact, until Prince Charles married Princess Diana who was actually English, most of the kings and queens were half-German, French or Spanish. Prince Charles’s father is Greek and Queen Victoria was half-German and so on and so forth.
The other interesting fact is that there is doubt as to the parentage of some of the intervening kings throughout the middle ages.  It is more than likely that Edward III was actually the son of Roger Mortimer who was Queen Isabella’s lover.  Also, it is quite possible that Queen Elizabeth I was actually the daughter of the court musician Mark Smeaton.  So, there are the Royals for you.  Source of amusement and also resentment for their lavish lifestyles at the expense of taxpayers.

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